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The 5 biggest hazards for hospital workers may surprise you

If 2013 was any guide, around 58,000 hospital workers suffer job-related injuries or illnesses each year. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that translates to a rate of 6.4 illnesses and injuries for every 100 full-time worker.

That may not really surprise you when you consider the chaos of a busy emergency room, but the problem isn't limited to emergency rooms -- or even to hospitals. People who work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities face with one of the highest rates of illness and injury in the country, as well. Is it simply an unavoidable hazard of the job?

Not at all, according to OSHA. "Virtually all of these injuries and illnesses are preventable," says Dr. David Michaels, an assistant secretary for OSHA.

"OSHA has provided employers with education, training, and resource materials," he added, "and it's time for hospitals and the health care industry to make the changes necessary to protect their workers."

To that end, OSHA recently announced it will expand its enforcement efforts in the healthcare industry, with particular emphasis on reducing five workplace safety and health hazards these workers face:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries from moving and handling patients
  • Exposure to tuberculosis
  • Exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Workplace violence

"Labor statistics have consistently shown that nurses, nursing assistants and other health care workers are at high risk of MSDs from manually lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients," the executive director of the American Nurses Association commented on the top hazard. "Manual patient handling is unsafe for patients and often results in painful, career-ending health care worker injuries."

The fact that a job is difficult and important doesn't mean it shouldn't be safe. Employers are legally responsible for providing a safe work environment for their employees, and the health care industry is no exception.

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